Monday, February 13, 2012

Costs of appeasement in Egypt

History repeats itself. First, as a tragedy, then as a farce. Both can be entertaining, and engaging. What do you do, when the pattern is so clear that neither tragedy nor the farce holds any allure? I wish I knew, because it would give me some enjoyment in writing about many of the current events. A lot of current events are like a train-wreck in slow motion - they make me want to avert my eyes.

Almost two months ago Charles Krauthammer wrote a piece entitled "The wages of appeasement" about the failure Obama's policies in Russia and Iran. These policies of appeasement went under the euphemisms of the 'reset' and 'negotiations without preconditions', respectively.

While enemies of U.S. foreign policy were appeased, our allies, like Israel or nominal allies in the war on terrorism, like Pakistan and Egypt, were treated like vassals. The situation with Israel, deserves it's own description, and I'd like to focus on Egypt.

One of the sad analogies between the past and the present in the rise of Islamism in Egypt that follows the pattern in Iran. Unfortunately, President Obama's response is very similar to that of President Carter - appeasement. In the Middle East people 'bet on the strongest horse', as Osama bin Laden described it. In that region appeasement is simply an admission of physical weakness, not ethical or psychological strength.

The situation with American citizens who worked for NGOs in Egypt provides clear evidence that Egypt is choosing Islamism over development. Some U.S. citizens from leaving the country, and charging them with running un-sanctioned NGO with a penalty up to five years in prison.

After a number of U.S. senators have expressed concern about these events and announced that $1.3 billion dollars in annual aid to Egypt may be in jeopardy, the outraged Egyptian delegation has cancelled the meeting with U.S. Senators Carl Levin and John McCain, the Democratic chairman and ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, among others in Congress this week. This is an egregious diplomatic slap in the face that shows Egyptians have no interest in attempting to normalize relations.

What can the Obama administration do, facing a failure of its policy in Egypt? Simple - the White House refuses to acknowledge the reality. In the proposed budget for next year, the $1.3 billion of aid to Egypt is preserved as a separate budget line (which makes it technically simple to eliminate). In addition Obama calls for more than $800 million in economic aid to help Middle Eastern countries swept by "Arab Spring" revolutions.

The billion with change in aid to Egypt helped to maintain peace between Egypt and Israel, and provided U.S. some leverage with Mubarak. Now, this money can only buy us Egyptian scorn. This situation is similar to the Iran-Contra affair. In early March of 1987 President Reagan had admitted on national TV that "what began as a strategic opening to Iran deteriorated, in its implementation, into trading arms for hostages".

While rewarding Egypt's behavior with the continuation of U.S. aid does not rise to the same scandalous level as Iran-Contra, the futility of appeasement is certain. Regardless of the administration in charge, the political wages of that kind of strategy is such a historical truism that it seems tedious even to write about it. It doesn't matter which U.S. party is to blame. The real issue is the cost for the region and the world. Iran, the first modern Islamist state, is providing an example of good example of the extended consequences of President Carter's myopia. Similarly, Obama's appeasement of the 'Arab Street' in Egypt has resulted in replacement of authoritarian Mubarak regime with Islamists. Egypt is the most populous Arab country, which is becoming the second Islamist state.

So, whether U.S. wastes money on Egypt, while the latter chooses to imprison the American NGO workers is relatively insignificant - the latter is merely a symptom of the disease, which Obama has promoted and is now pretending does not exist.

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